Thursday, February 26, 2009

Obama's Budget

I've been all over the web reading up on the Obama budget, and -- by far -- the best coverage is by ... (drum roll) ... the New York Times. I can tell you're not surprised I think so, because it sometimes seems like it's the only thing I read. It's not, but if it were, I could do worse.

David Stout in the Times has an excellent piece that gives you the flavor of the thing, which I quote extensively here [emphases are mine]:

The word “passion” is not always associated with “budget,” but to read the language in President Obama’s spending plan is to be reminded that a president’s budget is as much a political statement as it is a compilation of charts and graphs.

We arrived at this point as a result of an era of profound irresponsibility that engulfed both private and public institutions from some of our largest companies’ executive suites to the seats of power in Washington,” the president himself declares in his opening message.

Then, on to a section entitled “Inheriting a Legacy of Misplaced Priorities.”

“While middle-class families have been playing by the rules, living up to their responsibilities as neighbors and citizens, those at the commanding heights of our economy have not,” the introductory section goes on.

For the better part of three decades, a disproportionate share of the nation’s wealth has been accumulated by the very wealthy,” the document says in an unmistakable assertion that the Ronald Reagan era was not so much Morning Again in America as the dawn of a golden age for fat cats.

And for readers utterly lacking in subtlety, there is this: “Over the past eight years, policy was made behind closed doors. In many cases, unprecedented levels of secrecy have been invoked to block public scrutiny.” No surprise, the document continues, that the well-connected and those able to hire big-time lobbyists “were able to carve out huge loopholes in our tax code” while forcing middle-class folks to pick up the tab.

Moving on, we come to a passage condemning “the policy failures of the past eight years,” a time when “the needs of those in the room trump those of their fellow citizens.” Those in the room (not smoke-filled but still brimming with cynicism) were those closest to then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and perhaps even Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney themselves.
By golly, Obama is my soul mate!

Now that you know the flavor of the thing, get a fresh cup of coffee and read Jackie Calmes' summary of the budget document.

An interesting thing: When I started writing this post, this was a three-page summary written by Calmes and Robert Pear, with about five other contributors. By the time I went back to link to it, it had become a two-pager, written only by Calmes, with two contributors. Don't know what that was all about.

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